17-year-old held lead late, but spin-out took him out of contention PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full race results " See the dramatic closing laps MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- NASCAR's oldest national-series track often shines its light on veterans, sometimes chewing up newbies like so many hot dogs coming from the infield concession stand. Cole Custer , though, nearly turned conventional wisdom on its head, almost converting an amazing comeback at the tender age of 17. Custer, making just his first start of the season and his 10th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series appearance overall, nearly sewed up some Martinsville magic in Saturday afternoon's Kroger 250 , rallying twice from pit-road penalties to become a contender for the victory in the final laps. Custer actually sprang to the top of the scoring pylon with four laps left in regulation with a bold, full-contact move to get past veterans Matt Crafton and Joey Logano . But the teenager was far from home free, anticipating payback from one of the two. Crafton delivered with a series of bumps, sending the youngster spinning to bring out one final caution flag and send the race to overtime. From there, Custer limped home with what he figured was a damaged rear gear to finish 16th as the final truck on the lead lap. "I knew he was going to come back for me, though," Custer said after emerging from his battered No. 00 Chevrolet, the first truck series effort for JR Motorsports. "You know, he did it respectfully and I just gave him all I had to stay up there. … It's Martinsville. You're going to beat and bang for the win. It's what it is." Custer started second alongside eventual race winner Logano but faced an unexpected deficit early on because of pit-road penalties. Custer's No. 00 was flagged for speeding in a 36th-lap exchange of pit stops, then was tagged again on Lap 143 of a scheduled 250 for exceeding the limit again. The repeat offense had both Custer and crew chief Joe Shear Jr. scratching their heads, especially since Custer said he was never over their target RPMs on the tachometer. Either way, Custer methodically marched from the tail end of the field, helped by the second set of eyes and advice provided by spotter Eddie D'Hondt -- Jeff Gordon 's spotter in the Sprint Cup Series. Custer was characteristically stoic on the team communications Saturday, but the encouragement from Shear and D'Hondt made all the difference. " Eddie's helped me a lot this weekend," Custer said. "That's a big reason why we were fast. Joe brought a great truck to the race track, and I was happy with the day. Didn't get the finish, but at least we were fast. It was a big step up from last year for me, so we'll come back here in the fall, and I think we'll have something, too." He almost had something Saturday, gaining on front-runners Crafton and Logano as their battle for the lead became more heated as the laps wound down. By the time 10 laps remained, it was a free-for-all that went from a two-horse race to three. While the two veterans ahead of him scrapped and scraped, Custer saw opportunity, driving hard into the corner entry to push both trucks up the race track. Custer dove low beneath both Crafton and Logano to squirt out in front, and D'Hondt keyed his mic: "Don't you look in that mirror! I got it." Had he looked, he would have seen that Crafton's bright No. 88 Toyota was coming full-bore and that Logano's No. 29 Ford had recovered nicely, too. Crafton, the two-time defending Camping World Truck Series champ, laid the bumper to the youngster multiple times in the 248th lap, forcing Custer to lose control, spin and stall as he brushed into the lead. "I was kind of nervous," Custer said after suddenly rising to the top spot. "I didn't know there were so many laps left. I thought there were only a couple laps left, so I thought if I could get in front, I could've stayed there. Matt was just a little bit better than us and could catch us, and I deserved to get punted back." Crafton described Custer's pass for the lead with the words "pounded" and "pile-drove" but chalked up the contact to the nature of short-track racing. Logano wasn't displeased with how their run-in eventually unfolded. "With inside 10 (laps) to go, I heard that he was coming, but I heard that he was about 3 or 4 (truck-lengths) back," Logano said of Custer's late charge. "The next thing you know, here he comes banzai-ing in there and takes both of us up the race track. I haven't seen a replay yet or not, but my initial reaction I was really mad, and I guess I wasn't disappointed to see what I saw." Though Custer was powerless to mount an improbable third comeback to the front, Shear commended his young driver on the cool-down lap: "They knew that we were here." Martinsville remains the only track where Custer has multiple truck series starts, and Shear said he noticed the difference from his earlier efforts. He also noticed how Custer kept his composure at a track that usually riles up even the most patient drivers. "He's young still. He'll learn how to flip out like the rest of these Cup drivers someday," Shear said with a laugh. "But no, he did a good job with that. He could've easily gotten rattled and torn up even worse than he did, so he did a fantastic job. He's definitely a really mature kid for his age, and I'm proud to work with him." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
22-year-old has made 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts MORE: Full entry list for Martinsville RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Kyle Fowler will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend in the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway . Fowler will drive the No. 32 Ford for owner Frank Stoddard Jr. and GO FAS Racing. Eight other drivers have taken turns behind the wheel of the No. 32 car: Travis Kvapil (16 races), Terry Labonte (four races), Blake Koch (three races), J.J. Yeley (three races), Boris Said (two races), Joey Gase (two races), Timmy Hill (one race) and Eddie MacDonald (one race). Labonte's 11th-place finish in the rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July has been the team's best finish so far this season. The 22-year-old Georgia native has 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts in his career, including one this year in the spring at Charlotte Motor Speedway . He finished 32nd in the History 300 . The Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 is set for Sunday, Oct. 26 at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Nationwide Series regular will drive the No. 32 car for Go FAS Racing RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Joey Gase will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Chicagoland Speedway in the MyAFibStory.com 400 on Sept. 14. Gase will drive the No. 32 Ford for Go FAS Racing. "I am very excited and thankful that Archie (St. Hilarie, team owner) and the entire team are giving me this opportunity," Gase said in a team release. "My Nationwide Series career started with Go FAS in 2011, which led to a great 20th-place finish (at Iowa). Hopefully, I can get another good finish with the team." The team currently has a couple of associate sponsors for the race, but is looking for a primary sponsor, according to the release. Gase is currently running a full Nationwide Series schedule for Jimmy Means Racing. He is 20th in the standings with a best finish this season of 11th at Talladega in May. In 66 career Nationwide Series starts, the 21-year-old Iowa native has yet to record a top-10 finish. This season, Go FAS Racing has used other six drivers in the No. 32 car. Travis Kvapil (15 starts), Terry Labonte (three starts), Blake Koch (two starts), Boris Said (two starts), Eddie MacDonald (one start) and J.J. Yeley (one start) have combined to run the first 24 races of the season. Yeley will drive the car this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway . The team's best finish this season was an 11th-place finish by Labonte in July at Daytona International Speedway in the Coke Zero 400. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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